The Aldrich at 50


In 2014, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum celebrates its 50th Anniversary with a series of exhibitions and programs highlighting not just the Museum’s legacy, but the relationship between the era in which it was founded and our current cultural landscape. With perspective gained through five decades, The Aldrich’s formative years of 1964 to 1974 are being examined through a contemporary lens. The exhibition component of the anniversary will include three overlapping series presented during the course of a year. This includes a two-part exhibition—Standing in the Shadows of Love: The Aldrich Collection 1964–1974—of iconic, historical works that are representative of The Aldrich's early collection acquired by founder Larry Aldrich; a group of new projects by contemporary artists whose work reflects the continuing influence of both art and culture from the 1960s and 1970s, in conjunction with the historical works; and solo exhibitions of current work by established artists who were included in significant exhibitions during the Museum’s first decade. Additionally, The Aldrich has commissioned a work of historical fiction by American novelist and essayist Nathaniel Rich, based on research conducted in the Museum’s archives.

October 19, 2014, through April 5, 2015


Standing in the Shadows of Love:
The Aldrich Collection 1964–1974, Part II
Richard Artschwager, Eva Hesse, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Richard Serra

Standing in the Shadows of Love: The Aldrich Collection 1964–1974 is a two-part exhibition that examines Larry Aldrich’s legacy through the works of artists he championed early in their careers, a practice that continues to be honored in the mission of the Museum. Each of the exhibitions will present works by artists who had a significant presence in the Museum’s collection during its first decade, which coincided with one of the most defining periods in art of the twentieth century. The 1960s and early 1970s still reverberate in our culture fifty years later, as concerns that were news then, such as civil rights, women’s rights, the rise of media culture and “youth culture,” the inception of the environmental movement, and the questioning of America’s role as a world power, continue to be critical issues at the core of our social and political discourse. Although most periods of the past are being mined by contemporary artists, the 1960s are looked upon as a “hinge” between modernism and what came to be known as post-modernism, providing the seeds for a world-view that still defines many of our beliefs. The included works are either the actual pieces that were in the Museum’s early collection, or examples of the artist’s work from the same period.

Curated by Richard Klein and Amy Smith-Stewart.
Eva Hesse, Accession II, 1968 (1969)
Collection of Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Friends of Modern Art Fund and Miscellaneous Gifts Fund.
Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library © The Estate of Eva Hesse. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

 

Mary Beth Edelson: Six Story Gathering Boxes (1972–2014)

Artist and activist Mary Beth Edelson is a pioneer of the Feminist art movement, instrumental in the organization of the first conference for Women in the Visual Arts in 1972, and an active contributor to WAC, the Women’s Action Coalition, from 1991–95. This exhibition presents six of Edelson’s ground-breaking story gathering boxes—a project initiated in 1972 that demonstrated early vestiges of “social practice” and is still ongoing—including a new one specially commissioned by The Aldrich. There are two types of boxes: in one, wooden tablets created with diverse media encompass texts and imagery on specific themes; in the other, sets of paper tablets pose questions that prompt a response. Visitors are invited to participate by writing their stories, adding to time capsules reflecting more than four decades of changing social history. The story box Great Mother (1973), which focuses on goddess figures and was included forty years ago in The Aldrich presentation Contemporary Reflections (1973–74), will return to the Museum for the exhibition.

Born 1933, East Chicago, IN; lives and works in New York
Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: Mary Beth Edelson, Great Mother, 1973.
Courtesy of the artist.

 

Kate Gilmore: A Roll in the Way

Kate Gilmore’s practice spans video, performance, sculpture, and photography. She is almost always the sole protagonist in her videos, which are recorded either privately in her studio or onsite, never rehearsed and only attempted once. She assumes the roles of characters who are subjected to situations on makeshift sets that act as the catalyst for a mélange of wacky plays on art and life. At The Aldrich, Gilmore will debut a new video and site-specific sculpture that is a record of a private performance produced within the Museum’s walls. The video will document Gilmore’s systematic actions—lifting heavy logs, dipping them in paint, and rolling them onto a large white base. The monumental scale of the resulting sculpture is a testament to the incredible physicality of Gilmore’s work, reminiscent of the infinitives Richard Serra used to describe his own art process: “to drop,” “to roll,” “to splash.” Kate Gilmore’s exhibition is presented in conversation with Richard Serra's Bent Pipe Roll, 1968.

Born 1975, Washington, DC; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY
Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: Kate Gilmore, Love ‘Em, Leave ‘Em (Installation view at MoCA Cleveland), 2013
Courtesy of the artist and David Castillo Gallery, Miami
Photo: Cliff Borress

 

Ernesto Neto: The Body That Gravitates on Me

Ernesto Neto has become internationally known for translucent organic sculptures that often take on architectural proportions. Influenced by Brazilian artists from the 1960s such as Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, Neto’s work exhibits both playfulness and a formal rigor that is often—literally—stretched to the extreme by his use of flexible synthetic fabrics, particularly those used in stockings and tights: nylon and polyamide. Neto’s work, The Body That Gravitates on Me, will be installed in The Aldrich’s atrium, with its pendulous appendages dangling from the space’s 25-foot ceiling. It will be juxtaposed with a work by Eva Hesse from 1967 that was in Larry Aldrich’s collection. Like Neto’s work in the present day, in the 1960s Hesse’s sculpture referenced the body and utilized unusual and fragile materials in the service of reconciling formalism with figurative concerns. Ernesto Neto’s exhibition is presented in conversation with Eva Hesse’s Accession II, 1968 (1969) and Richard Serra’s Bent Pipe Roll, 1968.

Born 1964, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; lives and works in Rio de Janeiro
Curated by Richard Klein
Image: Ernesto Neto, The Body That Gravitates on Me, 2006.
Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

 

David Scanavino: Imperial Texture

David Scanavino will create a site-specific floor sculpture and new large-scale wall relief for The Aldrich, transforming the South Gallery into both an experiential installation and an engaging platform for interactivity. Scanavino exploits the legacy of Minimalism, with its affinity for reduced forms and industrial surfaces, but instead of polished steel and aluminum, he employs cheap, institutional materials like linoleum and newsprint pulp. For Imperial Texture, Scanavino will apply multicolored 1 x 1 foot linoleum tiles in a dizzying pattern, mimicking pixel arrays in an enlarged, compressed jpeg. The work will generate a tantalizing optical sensation, challenging the viewer’s dimensional perception and offering an intensified sensorial experience about body, site, and spatial composition. Applied by hand and comprised of a colorful construction paper pulp whose palette complements the floor, Peacock (2014) will span a gallery wall. David Scanavino’s exhibition is presented in conversation with Richard Artschwager’s Pyramidal Object, 1967 and Ellsworth Kelly's Yellow Piece, 1966.

Born 1978, Denver, CO; lives and works in New York
Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: David Scanavino, Untitled (Imperial Study), 2013.
Courtesy of the artist and Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, New York.

 

Cary Smith: Your Eyes They Turn Me

Over the course of the past twenty-five years, the painter Cary Smith has engaged in a restless, but controlled, pursuit of abstraction. Smith’s paintings have been consistently categorized by a curious poetic logic, rigorous craft, and a beautiful, but not gratuitous, color sense. Working in the wake of the freedom presented by the collapse of Modernism’s rigid dogmas, Smith’s paintings vacillate between geometric and biomorphic abstraction and frequently include subtle references to the visual language utilized by Modernist design. Your Eyes They Turn Me will focus on recent paintings, including Smith’s “splats,” radiating works that utilize a splash-like motif, and “wonder wheels,” optically active, geometric grids that exhibit a music-like tonality. The title, Your Eyes They Turn Me (appropriated from a song by Radiohead), suggests optical attraction, desire, and movement—all things that a viewer encounters in Smith’s work. This is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition. Cary Smith’s exhibition is presented in conversation with Ellsworth Kelly’s Yellow Piece, 1966 and Agnes Martin’s The Rose, 1964.

Born 1955, Puerto Rico; lives and works in Hartford, CT
Curated by Richard Klein
Image: Cary Smith, Wonder Wheel #8, 2013.
Courtesy of the artist and Feature Inc., New York.

 

Jackie Winsor: With and Within

Jackie Winsor was one of the most significant sculptors to emerge in the late 1960s. Winsor's work was shown at The Aldrich in the legendary Lucy Lippard exhibition, Twenty-Six Women Artists (1971). This, her first solo museum exhibition since 1997, will unite ten works from the Inset Wall series, begun in 1988; Painted Piece, an influential performative sculpture from 1979–80, along with photographs recording its creation; and videos and photos documenting the making of Fifty-Fifty (1975) and Burnt Piece (1977–78). The exhibition is designed in close collaboration with the artist, concentrating on the ongoing Inset Wall series in order to underscore Winsor's evolving, revolutionary and singular approach—from the performative to the contemplative—to making sculpture at the intersection of Minimalism and feminism. Taken as a whole, the exhibition will consider the dynamic interplay of opposing power sources alive in a practice that spans more than five decades, one predicated on inwardness, as the viewer moves thoughtfully around these works, stepping up close to look deep within. This very interactivity, the physical insistence on the human body shifting, is what makes her works expressive; one wants to be enclosed by them. Jackie Winsor is one of a series of solo presentations during the 2014–15 anniversary year that features artists whose work was included in historic Aldrich exhibitions.

Born 1941, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada; lives and works in New York
Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: Jackie Winsor, Painted Piece, 1979–80
Courtesy Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, with funds from Donna and Donald Baumgartner and Mrs. Helen Herbst in memory of her father Samuel C. Herbst by exchange.

 

Circumstance


Circumstance will highlight inspiration and its influence across object-making, through the specifically commissioned work of six multi-generational artists. The exhibition will underscore the intersection of installation art and exhibition design, and show how the convergence of fine art, design, and non-art objects within the exhibition format informs and elucidates creative expression.

For six months (May 3 to October 25, 2015), the entire museum facility—whose distinctive galleries range from the intimate to the spacious—will be transformed into “rooms” designed by the exhibiting artists, which will “read” as total works of art as they show their own work alongside objects and/or artworks by other artists they have selected. In some instances, works may extend outside of the Museum’s walls, providing alternative ways of perceiving space by offering extended lines of sight across the campus. In doing so, Circumstance attempts to explore the interstices where art and object come together, come apart, and reunify, by examining context, its many shifts and permutations, and tracing the movement of art and objects from the studio to the museum. The participating artists are Virginia Poundstone, Nancy Shaver, Ruby Sky Stiler, Penelope Umbrico, Elif Uras, and B. Wurtz.

During Circumstance, the Museum will become a captivating maze of intersecting rooms where cultural hierarchies are intentionally obscured, where craft, found, utilitarian, historical design, and everyday objects sit beside works of art, informing us as to how artists take inspiration from what is around them. Selected artworks and objects will enhance our “reading” and innovatively offer—vis-à-vis a visual form of storytelling—intersecting and interdynamic narratives about these works of art and their makers, confronting us with larger questions about history, culture, and society. Imaginative forms of art installation, exhibition making, and curatorial display will coalesce; the boundaries between objects/art will be playfully unclear, opening up fertile discussions about ways of seeing and experiencing the art/objects that engulf us. The artists will take center stage in the development, conceptualization, and reception of their work, as the Museum assists them to reveal never-before-seen aspects of their practice.

May 3 through October 25, 2015


Virginia Poundstone: Flower Mutations

Virginia Poundstone (b. 1977, Great Lakes, Illinois) will take formal inspiration from Giacomo Balla's series of Futurist Flowers as well as traditional American Dutch flower-pattern quilts. She will create a series of new outdoor sculptures and curate an interior room of objects that investigate the visual representation of flowers through abstraction in art and design (from fifth century Islamic textiles to concrete poetry to experimental films). These sculptures, a series of geometric flowers in stone and metal sheets between three and six feet tall, will be placed on the Museum’s grounds to form a garden complete with actual floral landscaping. Inside the Museum, a curated display of source material and inspirational works by other artists will be shown side by side with Poundstone’s own sketches and models.

Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: Virginia Poundstone, Rainbow Rose, 2013
Courtesy of the artist

 

Nancy Shaver: The Reconciliation of the Ordinary and Decorative

For Nancy Shaver (b. 1946, Appleton, New York), objects are not inert things. Instead, like characters in a play, they have back-stories; onstage relationships with other objects; new roles in unknowable futures. Shaver has integrated her practice as an artist into the world of the ordinary and domestic by using the act of collecting as an organizing principle. For her project at The Aldrich, she will juxtapose recent sculpture made from women’s clothing fabric found in rural thrift stores in upstate New York with photographs by Walker Evans (who was one of her teachers) and images of the artist, fabric, and clothing designer Sonia Delaunay. Shaver feels that her practice resides at a mid-point between the work of these two artists: the frugal, make-do aesthetics of those living in poverty as revealed in Evans’s photographs, and the Modernist, high-art of Delaunay as manifested in her work in the 1920s Parisian fashion world.

Curated by Richard Klein
Image: Nancy Shaver, Untitled, 2014
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ruby Sky Stiler

Ruby Sky Stiler’s (b. 1979, Portland, Maine) experimentation with Hydrocal plaster evolved alongside her interest in the scholarly history of classical plaster cast replications. Through time these objects have fallen in and out of favor. Her cast reliefs originate from compositions of detritus from previous works and fragments of left-over materials salvaged from around her studio, making ghostly references to objects she describes as not present and no longer in existence. For The Aldrich, her site-specific installation will display her own wall-scale plaster reliefs with a selection of loaned classical casts. The wall arrangement will consist of multiple casts of her works, designed as a tiled repeat pattern. This process calls to mind classical bas-relief, design elements in Le Corbusier’s concrete architecture, Picasso’s sgraffito works, low relief in municipal sculpture, and decorative relief. This interplay of references, espousing both the high and low, explores questions of taste, originality and value.

Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: Ruby Sky Stiler, Unique Copy (4 parts in repeat), 2014
Courtesy of the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York

 

Penelope Umbrico: Plato’s Cave

Penelope Umbrico’s (b. 1957, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) photographic process has led to her being labeled an archivist and collector, as she increasingly utilizes Internet images from sources as diverse as Flickr, eBay, and Craigslist. For her Aldrich project, Umbrico will place her practice in the continuum of the evolving history of photographic imagery. The Museum’s camera obscura will become a starting point to explore the technologies of both analog and digital reproduction and how we are at a point where light—traditionally the most central element of photography—has become disembodied from the natural world, with even the sun itself being reduced to a mere artifact. Umbrico will place a “sunset” (streaming images of the sun found on the Internet) on a monitor outside the camera obscura, creating a sun image inside the camera that, although produced naturally by light entering the camera’s pinhole, is actually an artifact that has been “reprocessed” through traditional photographic means.

Curated by Richard Klein
Image: Penelope Umbrico, Suns (from Sunsets) from Flickr, 2006-ongoing
Courtesy of the artist and Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City, CA

 

Elif Uras

The paintings and ceramic works of Elif Uras (b. 1972, Ankara, Turkey) explore, in her words, “shifting notions of gender and class within the context of the East-West conflict paradigm.” Working onsite in Iznik (Nicaea), where the most renowned tiles and ceramics of the Ottoman Empire originated, she creates sculptures that incorporate the non-figurative visual vocabulary of traditional Turkish art and Western figuration. For The Aldrich, she plans to transform a gallery into a domestic interior courtyard—a feature that figures prominently in Turkish and Islamic architecture. At the center of the gallery, a ceramic fountain resembling a traditional marble basin will sit atop a carpet-like grid of glazed and painted Iznik floor tiles. Wall niches will contain ceramic plates and vessels, which, like the tiles, will be painted in the blue-and-white palette—a nod to both the Chinese origins of Iznik and to the monochrome, one of the defining gestures of modernist painting.

Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: Elif Uras, The Olivepickers, 2014
Courtesy of the artist

 

B. Wurtz

B. Wurtz (b. 1948, Pasadena, California) has since 1990 produced an ongoing body of work that he refers to as “pan paintings.” These wall pieces are made from ordinary supermarket aluminum food containers, as well as larger roasting pans purchased at kitchen goods stores. He paints over the patterns and texts on the exterior of the pans with various colors of acrylic paint. These inexpensive and disposable pans transcend socio-economic class, passing through every home at some point in time; but Wurtz has transformed the ordinary into something collectible. For The Aldrich, Wurtz will cover the walls of an entire room, salon style, with his pan paintings. Additionally, a freestanding vitrine will showcase selections from three collections of functional items commonly found in middle/upper-middle-class households—cut glass, steel/enamel, and stoneware—that offer a compelling dialogue about high art, decorative art, form and function, as well as the act of collecting.

Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: B. Wurtz, Untitled (Pan Painting), 2013
Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York